The Honors Program challenges Albright’s most talented and motivated students. You may be invited to join the program as an incoming freshman, or you can apply if you have earned a 3.5 grade point average in your first semester. Occasionally students can apply to the program after their first semester.
The Honors Program Allows You to:
- Take innovative courses in classes that average 10 to 15 students.
- Be part of a supportive community of individuals who share a strong academic focus.
- Participate in service projects and trips organized by the Honors Club.
- Be eligible to live in the Honors House at Mohn Hall.
- Graduate with College Honors when you complete all the requirements of the Honors Program.
If you are a recipient of a Founders, selected Shirk or Presidential Scholarship, you are eligible to join the Honors Program upon matriculation at Albright. Joining at this point allows you to take one of the Freshman Honors courses created specifically for you and other eligible incoming freshmen. Before registering for your first semester of classes, you will receive information about first year honors courses offered.
If you are not a recipient of a Scholarship, or if you are, but did not register for the Honors Program upon matriculation, you may join the Program if you have an Albright cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher. If you are in your first semester at Albright, you may join the Program if your midterm grade point average is 3.5 or higher. Applying to the program is easy. You can either complete the online form or pick up a hard copy from the the Registrar’s office or from Julia Heberle, the Director of the program. Dr. Heberle’s office is located in Teel Hall, room 207.
It’s a good idea to join the Program as soon as you are eligible. This allows you to get the most out of the benefits of participation in the Program. Most students join either before or during their first semester at Albright. Although it is not ideal, it is certainly possible to join the Program later in your freshman year or in your sophomore year. Waiting longer than that, though, makes it difficult to fulfill all of the Honors requirements by the time you graduate. If you would like to join the Program later than your sophomore year, you will want to consult with your academic advisor and with the Director of the Honors Program to work out a strategy for fulfilling the requirements.
What Are the Requirements of the Honors Program?
Once you have joined the Honors Program, you must satisfy three requirements in order to complete the Program successfully. You must:
- Take three Honors course units.
- Maintain the requisite grade point average.
- Successfully complete a Senior Honors Thesis.
These requirements are explained in more detail below.
The Honors Courses you are required to take all count toward the total required for graduation. These courses do not increase your overall course load. Instead, they make it possible for you to fulfill some of your course requirements in an enriched way. Of the three Honors courses you take at least one can be an introductory level course, such as ENG 102 or PSY 100, as well as more advanced courses. These courses are designed to also count toward general studies or concentration requirements. Honors courses are inquiry-oriented courses with a limited enrollment; topics vary from semester to semester and discipline to discipline.
You may also complete your unit requirements using Honors modules or an Honors independent study. You must complete two of these courses by the end of your sophomore year and the third by the end of your junior year in order to remain a member in good standing of the Honors Program. (If there is a specific reason that you are waiting longer than usual to fulfill these requirements, please speak with your advisor and the director of the Honors Program).
An Honors module gives you the opportunity to take a regular course for Honors credit by supplementing or replacing part of the course requirements with a special Honors project. These projects vary from course to course so you will want to consult with the professor teaching the course to work out the specific details. This consultation should take place as soon as possible, but optimally no later than the first week of the semester in which you are taking the course. You must take the initiative in setting up this meeting and you are encouraged (although not required) to arrive at the meeting with a suggestion of what your project might entail. Students are encouraged to have regular meetings with the instructor as a part of any module they design. Students are also encouraged to put the plans for the module in writing so that expectations for both student and instructor are explicit.
If you have a choice between taking an Honors course and an Honors module, it is usually preferable to take the Honors course. On some occasions, however, an Honors module may be precisely what you want, since it may give you an opportunity to explore in greater depth a topic that is studied only in non-Honors courses. An Honors module also makes it possible to use a regular course to meet your Honors requirements, as well as possibly a general studies or concentration requirement. This may be particularly useful if you have a scheduling conflict with the Honors courses that are being offered.
Honors Independent Study
An Honors independent study gives you the opportunity to arrange a specialized study with a particular professor. This makes it possible for you to explore specific areas of interest that are beyond the scope of regular course offerings. You may want to consider taking an Honors independent study in conjunction with your Senior Honors Project, during either your junior or senior year.
Grade Point Average
In order to join the Honors Program, to remain a member in good standing, and to graduate with College Honors, you must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
If your cumulative grade point average falls to between 3.5 and 3.25, you may remain in the Program on a probationary status. Students on probationary status do not have the privilege of registering early for classes. (See Section IV of this guide for more information on the privilege of registering early.) If your cumulative grade point average falls below 3.25, you will not be allowed to continue in the Program. If you bring your cumulative grade point average back up to the probationary level, however, you may apply for readmission to the Program.
GPA and course requirements for writing a Senior Thesis:
College Honors: You must graduate with an overall GPA of at least 3.50 and you must have complete three honors courses (if you have not completed this requirement by the start of your senior year, contact Dr. Catone immediately).
Departmental Distinction: You must graduate with an overall GPA of at least 3.25 and you must graduate with a GPA in your concentration of at least 3.50; see Dr. Catone with questions about your GPA.
The Senior Honors Thesis gives you a wonderful opportunity to conduct independent research. Although the project will likely be in your area of concentration (or one of them, if you have several), the possibilities are endless. Students in the past have chosen a wide variety of projects. Some have combined them with independent study projects, study abroad or Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) Grants. For more information on ACRE Grants, contact the provost’s office.
Your project will consist of some type of research, a written presentation of that research in the form of a thesis, and a personal presentation of that research to the Albright College community. There are several major deadlines you must keep in mind to remain on track with the project. They are described below for students who are graduating in the Spring. If you are graduating in the fall, you must speak with the senior thesis coordinator (currently Dr. Catone) to set up deadlines. Also below you will find examples of past Senior Honors Theses and Projects.
Choosing a Topic, Advisor, and Readers
In your junior year (or even earlier in some cases), you will want to select your topic, your advisor, and two readers. Near the end of your junior year, you must submit a form to the Coordinator of Senior Honors Projects, indicating what your topic will be and bearing the signatures of your advisor and readers. Your advisor, who must be a full-time member of the Albright faculty, will be the person working with you most closely on your project. Assuming your project is in your area of concentration, one of your readers will come from within your department, and one will be from outside your department. This will allow you to receive feedback from specialists as well as a well-educated non-specialist. Like your advisor, your readers must also be full-time members of the Albright faculty. If you and your advisor agree that it is important to include as a reader an adjunct member of the faculty or someone not on Albright’s faculty, you must submit an explanation, signed by your advisor, detailing why it is important to include this individual as a reader.
Although project timelines vary, you will almost certainly want to conduct serious work on your project over the summer before your senior year. This may involve preparing a detailed bibliography, doing background reading, collecting data or engaging in laboratory work, and it may be conducted at home, on campus, or at a special site in the U.S. or abroad. You may want to consider applying for an ACRE Grant to support this part of your research.
Submitting a Proposal
Shortly after the beginning of the fall semester of your senior year, you will submit a proposal to your advisor and readers. They will review your proposal and make suggestions on how to improve it. After making the necessary changes, you will submit your proposal to the Honors Committee via the Online Senior Thesis Proposal Form. The Honors Committee will review your proposal and let you know of any revisions its members would like you to make.
As you write your proposal, keep in mind that you will be submitting it to the Honors Committee, which includes faculty members from a variety of disciplines. Make sure that your writing is clear and that your thoughts are as accessible as possible to a wide audience. There is no specified length for your proposal. More important than its length is its thoroughness and clarity. It may be helpful to know that many successful proposals in the past have been about two to three pages before they were submitted via the online form.
Your final proposal will be submitted electronically using the Online Senior Thesis Proposal Form (link below), you should use the following guide to draft your proposal. You will then be able to copy and paste the contents of your proposal into the web form for submission. Your thesis proposal must contain the following sections:
- An account of how you became interested in the project.
- Your goals for the project.
- A tentative hypothesis or thesis; for art/theatre projects, a contextualization of your goals.
- Your proposed methods of inquiry.
- A summary of preliminary research.
- A preliminary bibliography.
- A timeline for the project containing a brief outline of monthly progress goals.
Avoiding Common Oversights
The Honors Committee will flag proposals that lack a clear goal, hypothesis, or context. Also, proposals that do not contain a sufficient bibliography and timeline will be returned for revision. Please be sure to include all seven of the sections listed above in your proposal. Online Senior Thesis Proposal Form
Submitting the Rough Draft
One reason it is important for you to construct a timeline for completing the various stages of your project is that it will help you avoid the devastating effects of procrastinating on a project as large as this. Be sure to include in your timeline the submission of a rough draft to your advisor and readers in late February. (Check the calendar at the end of this section for the exact date.) This is an important step in ensuring that you are on track to finish your project on time. The further along you are at this stage the more time you will have for revising and polishing your thesis. Depending on your topic, you may well find this task of revising and polishing to be the most important part of your entire project. If done well, this part of independent research can be very rewarding and can result in whole new levels of clarity and insight.
Submitting the Thesis
Thesis submission involves three stages. First, you must submit your thesis to your advisor and readers, who will make suggestions for changes. (To avoid unpleasant surprises at this stage, you will want to make sure that you have been working closely with them throughout the entire process.) Second, you will revise your thesis in accordance with the suggestions made. (If you disagree with a particular suggestion, you will want to create a compelling argument to convince your advisor and readers that your thesis is stronger without following it.) Third, you will submit the final copy of your thesis to the Honors Committee via the Coordinator of Senior Honors Projects. Your thesis must be accompanied by a signed cover page, a library release form, and an abstract. At this point, the Honors Committee entrusts the review of the content of your thesis to your advisor and readers and merely checks to make sure that the thesis and its accompanying forms are all complete and submitted on time.
The Honors Committee has not set a minimum length requirement for your thesis. Its length will depend on your project and the discipline in which you are working. In general, theses in the sciences tend to be shorter than those in the humanities, since their main point is usually to report the results of experiments or the interpretation of data. As a general guideline, if you are writing a thesis in the sciences, you may want to aim for 20-30 pages. If you are writing one in the humanities, on the other hand, you will probably want to aim for 40-50 pages.
Presenting Your Research
One of the most exciting aspects of your research will be the presentation of your conclusions to a campus-wide audience. You will be asked to present your research to the Albright College community during Honors Week in the spring. You may choose to present your work orally (using slides, overheads, or Power Point as needed) or during the Honors Week poster session.
Oral presentations are 20 minutes long, including time for a few questions from the audience. Since your audience may contain faculty and students from a variety of disciplines, you should try to make your presentation as accessible to them as reasonably possible. If your project is quite technical, you should at least be able to explain simply and clearly its larger context and importance before proceeding to the parts that only a specialist would be able to follow. Presentations and posters have typically been presented in Klein. If you choose to present your research via a poster, you will be expected to be present to answer questions about it during the honors week poster session.
Examples of Past Theses
For a look at last year’s senior theses, follow this link to the abstracts.
Joining the Honors Program allows you to become a special member of the honors community. It will give you unique opportunities to learn from and contribute to a group of students and professors who have a special dedication to learning. This dedication extends to learning in a variety of contexts — in the classroom, of course, but also in the residence halls and in the world of research.
Membership in this community comes with special privileges. You will be able to register early for courses, which makes it more likely that you will be able to get both the honors courses and the regular courses you want. You will also be able to fulfill some of your general studies or concentration requirements in the special environment of honors courses. These courses tend to be smaller than regular courses. Honors courses are typically capped at 15, and many of them have 10 or fewer students in the class. Obviously, this kind of intimate setting allows for more personal interaction and bonding with professors and classmates. While these courses don’t necessarily involve a lot more work than regular courses, they do present greater opportunities and challenges and the chance to face these opportunities and challenges in the company of other highly talented and motivated students.
One of the greatest benefits of the Honors Program is the opportunity to undertake a year-long independent research project. (See the description of Senior Honors Projects in Section III above.) This may well provide the richest learning experience of your entire college career. It will certainly help you become a more disciplined researcher and a more mature thinker. Of course, successful completion of this project will also help you stand out in your application to graduate school or as you begin your career.
By joining the Honors Program, you will also enjoy membership in the Honors Club and eligibility to live in the Honors House at Mohn Hall.
Another great benefit of the Honors Program occurs at graduation. Provided you have successfully completed all the requirements of the program, College Honors will be conferred upon you. This includes recognition during the graduation ceremony, an honors medal, as well as the special designation on your diploma.
Academic Honors, Departmental Distinction and College Honors are honorific designations awarded at graduation. Although these designations have overlapping requirements, they are awarded independently of each other.
Academic Honors is awarded by the academic dean strictly on the basis of grade point average. You will graduate with Academic Honors if your final cumulative grade point average is 3.5 or higher. If it is between 3.50 and 3.69, you will graduate cum laude; if it is between 3.70 and 3.84, you will graduate magna cum laude; and if it is 3.85 or above, you will graduate summa cum laude.
Departmental Distinction is awarded to students who have met certain requirements in their department. You will graduate with Departmental Distinction if your final cumulative grade point average is 3.25 or higher, your final departmental grade point average is 3.5 or higher, and you successfully complete a Senior Honors Project in the same department. Be sure to check with your adviser or department chair for any additional departmental requirements.
College Honors is awarded to students who have successfully fulfilled the requirements of the Honors Program. You will graduate with College Honors if you satisfy the honors course requirements, maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher and successfully complete a Senior Honors Project.
Please note that the same Senior Honors Project may count toward both Departmental Distinction and College Honors.
All students registered for the Honors Program are automatically welcomed into the Honors Club. The Honors Club is headed by an executive board consisting of four student officers and a faculty advisor.
The persons filling these positions this year are as follows:
The Honors Club plans a variety of activities, including Mohn Meetings, Honors trips, and service projects. The club also cosponsors talks for the campus with other honors societies, such as Psi Chi.
Mohn Meetings are scheduled as necessary throughout the year to conduct the business of the club. Their purpose is to inform club members of developments in the Program, to solicit feedback from club members on particular decisions that need to be made, and to elect officers in the spring.
The Honors Club also plans one or two trips a year. Honors students enjoy the opportunity to spend a day in places like New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
The Honors Club encourages its members to volunteer their time in service projects on campus and in the community. The Honors Chair coordinates the service efforts of members of the Honors Club.
Dr. Julia Heberle, Director of the Honors Program, Chair of the Honors Committee, Associate Professor of Psychology
Kim Justeson, Director of Experiential Learning
Dr. Christopher Catone, Coordinator of Senior Honors Projects, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Trudy Prutzman, Honors Program Secretary
Cindy Becker, Experiential Learning and Career Development Center Secretary